ON HAND: Deaf publications

This originally appeared in The Tactile Mind Weekly in Trudy’s ON HAND column.

I’m frustrated.

More than a year ago, I wrote a piece for NAD’s Members Only Area about the demise of publications in the deaf community. One of the things I wrote in that article was that people seemed to think that running a publication was easier than cutting bread. That’s one of the reasons so many publications come and go.

When a new newspaper appeared last October, I was cautious. According to an insider, they created, planned, and launched the paper in a month’s time–way too fast for any new publication. I decided to give the newspaper a chance, though, especially since I had worked with the editor in the past. After a few months, I ended my contract with them. With unbelievable runarounds, late paychecks, lack of communication, and a million other things–I figured I had better things to do with my time.

Two months later, they were still publishing articles I had turned in more than six months prior. Today, the newspaper has lost almost all of its original section editors and has gone through several administration changes. The contents of the newspaper are easily read through in a matter of minutes and filled with opinionated or poorly researched articles. While I’m happy to not be writing for a newspaper with only 1,100 paid subscribers, I’m also disappointed. I had high hopes for the newspaper, because we do need such a publication.

Maybe if they had taken more time in launching the newspaper–instead of trying to capture the market–they could have planned better, recruited better staff, and had writers and editors more familiar with deaf journalism (which is different from mainstream journalism). While I understand that every start-up project has room for improvement, I think if they had simply taken time out to learn the ropes, the newspaper would have a lower turnover and better contents–and ultimately, better subscriber numbers.

Now there’s another online magazine being launched. When I saw it, my immediate response was: “Let’s see how long this one lasts.” And that frustrates me.

Why are we now at a point where we meet new publications with great skepticism and little trust? The answer is, of course, because of previous newspapers and magazines that have ripped subscribers off.

When Silent News suddenly shut down nine months after I left, I waited with bated breath to see if subscribers would be refunded their money, especially those who had supported the paper for more than 30 years. They didn’t get their money back. I get asked every day, two years later, what happened. I wish I knew–I left long before the paper shut down–but I’m frustrated to think that loyal, dedicated subscribers, including my own family, lost money to a deaf publication.

When I started editing Deaf Success Magazine a few months after it launched, one of the terms of my part-time contract was that if the magazine ever shut down, *they would refund money to subscribers*. When my paychecks began arriving as much as a month late, and issues weren’t arriving to our 4,000 subscribers–I knew it was time to resign. Sure enough, they soon shut down. No money was refunded to anyone, and I’m still owed some money. I still have no idea what happened to the publication–again.

But what frustrates me even more is that subscribers–and writers–are consistently left in the dark.

When an issue is late, subscribers must be notified. When something comes up that delays or cancels publication, subscribers must be notified. When a publication temporarily or permanently suspends printing–and there are plenty of them: Silent News, Deaf Success, several e-zines/websites, Deaf Life, Capital D–subscribers must be notified, and refunded their money.

Yet they aren’t. And nobody is ever told what happened. This is so, so wrong.

With the lack of respect for subscribers and writers, I now choose to not work for any deaf publication, except for the occasional article. And I’m not alone–many of the deaf community’s top writers have made the same decision.

It’s too bad, really.

On a different note: Congratulations to TTMW for reaching its first anniversary! I’m proud to have been part of the publication.

Copyrighted material. This article can not be copied, reproduced, or redistributed without the written consent of the author.

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